LAUREL - After bird flu was discovered in dead geese last week at Laurel's South Pond, Montana wildlife officials are alerting area residents of the problem but are keeping the popular recreational spot open.
The nine Canada geese were found dead at Lions Family Park by the pond, located on West Railroad Street, and while the flu is communicable, at this time the park remains open.
Park visitors Debra and Daniel Fields said the news is an unwelcome surprise.
"We will probably stay away from the pond now that we know," Debra said. "We just didn't know. I think people should be concerned always when there's a public issue like this."
But amidst those concerns, Chrissy Webb with Montana FWP said it isn't time to panic and that it is standard to see an increase during migration season.
"As of right now, it's not a huge health concern," Webb said Monday morning. "Typically, a lot of this stuff rises seasonally."
The virus is contagious to animals and humans, and that's a big reason why the Fields are planning to stay away from one of their favorite places for the time being.
"People let their cats run around and if a cat comes down here, sees a dead bird, picks it up and takes it home, then that's a problem," Daniel Fields said.
Webb said she understood those concerns and said that's why prevention and awareness are important. FWP hung signs up at Lions Family Park explaining the concern.
"There are a few cases of those domestic cats and dogs, where those animals did pass away from this," Webb said. "It hasn't been in Montana and the number of those cases has been pretty few, but making sure to take a few precautions to protect yourself and your pet is important this time of year."
Webb said the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus is to be on the lookout for odd bird behavior, make sure your pet isn't consuming any bird feces and wear gloves when picking up any dead birds.
"We've seen it in some other species but it's still relatively rare at this point, so we don't have to tell people to not go to these places they enjoy at this point," Webb said. "But we do want to just remind them to take precaution when they go to these places."